What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

When I was 6 years old, I said I wanted to be a cowboy, an astronaut, and a dad.  I since haven’t fervently pursued those goals but upon reflection, the experiences and skills that I have acquired could be used towards achieving all of them.  The metaphor to be used throughout the rest of this article is a tool box.  Every formative experience you have, you are actually adding a tool to your tool box.  If you acquire a staple remover, for example, you might think, “Geeze, when am I ever going to have to remove a staple?”  But then one day you find yourself using your staple remover to crimp wire.  Because my poetic ability is under-developed, I should probably explain that analogy: Really, your whole life you are acquiring skills.  Many of them won’t seem applicable to your aspirations but you will likely find yourself using your skills in ways you never foresaw. 

And here you are in university, the hub of skill development.  You’re going to take classes that teach you new things, but be cognizant of that fact that you’re learning so much more than just chemistry, history, or French.  You’re learning self-discipline, public speaking, project management, task prioritizing, personal finance, healthy habits, conflict resolution, etc.  University is a great step on your way to your dream career, no matter the career you aspire to.  So you’re in the right place, and here are a few tips to get the most out of this experience. 

Explore beyond the classroom 

Find something you’re passionate about that isn’t your studies, and get involved with that in one way or another.  Most of your job-applicable skills will be acquired outside the classroom.  Seek clubs, volunteer position, jobs, conferences, internships, and other communities that you are interested in.  The skill development will come without you having to think about it.  Who knows, something you get involved in for fun might end up scoring you a job down the road.  That happened with me and Sophing.  I stuck with it and now I’m working within Western Housing.  Or I’ve heard of someone volunteering at a radio station because they were passionate about the genre of music they played, and then she got a job at the station.  That story might have been from Pitch Perfect… I can’t remember. 

Do what interests you 

There are many people that do things with the primary intention of putting it on their resume.  While there is nothing explicitly wrong with this, if it is something you’re not passionate about, your supervisors will notice and will not offer good references.  You’re better off just pursuing what interests you, and eventually the “resume boosters” will come.  Besides, who wants to spend their time pursuing something that doesn’t interest them and is not guaranteed to put them ahead in life?  If there is no guarantee of you benefitting from the experience down the road, you might as well enjoy it now. 

You have to make the first step 

By virtue of you being at Western, you are surrounded by opportunities.  These opportunities, though, will not come knocking at your door, you have to go and seek them out.  If you make the step of applying for a job or attending a conference, you are already ahead in the game.  Take advantage of your situation.  You might never again be surrounded by a hub of opportunities as diverse as what university offers. 

Don’t stress about not knowing what you want your career to be 

Do you ever find yourself stressing about being in Psych because it seemed like the safe option for someone that doesn’t know what they want to do in terms of career?  That is OK!  The vast majority of the first year class doesn’t know what they want to do with their life, and the minority that does, will probably change their mind by second or third year.  The important thing to remember is that you can’t go wrong getting an education.  They say the best investment is investing in yourself (it would be nice though if this whole “education thing” didn’t cost so darn much).  Your experiences here, mostly out of the classroom, will give you direction and a better idea of what you thing you might want to do with your life. 

You have your tool box, and you have some tools.  Make room, though, because you’ll be acquiring tools at an unprecedented rate.  So go out, explore, learn, have fun, and most importantly, remember this experience, as it will be over before you know it.